Gorsuch, Religious Freedom, and Playground Rubber

Today the United States Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the 113th Justice of the United States Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left more than a year ago by the death of Antonin Scalia.

This confirmation is validation for those who voted for President Trump mostly or solely because of his promise that he would nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

While the result is encouraging, the process exposed the troubling and disproportionate power the Supreme Court now has.

Rather than being the least powerful branch of government that merely interprets laws created by others, it has become the left’s preferred method of social engineering when those who are elected say, “No thanks” to their best new idea.

Most of the most significant assaults on life and marriage have come through the courts.  Now, the debate over religious freedom is largely being waged in the courts as well. And very soon we will see exactly what we are getting with Justice Gorsuch.

Perhaps the first case he hears as a member of the Supreme Court will be a significant religious freedom case involving, of all things, playground rubber.

The state of Missouri has a recycled program tire.  People pay a fee to the state to take their old, unwanted tires and the state uses that money to fund grant programs around the state that encourage schools and organizations to purchase playground pads composed of recycled rubber. Safer kids, smaller landfills; everyone wins

Their funds, however, are limited.

So the state created a list of criteria they use to determine which applicants will receive grant dollars.  They consider, among other things, the organization’s demonstrated commitment to the community as well as the need in the community being served.

When all the applications were evaluated initially, the application with the fifth highest score (out of forty-four) was Trinity Lutheran Church.

The top fourteen applicants received grant money.

The state, however, was uncomfortable with their status as a church and upon investigation eliminated them from consideration despite the fact that they were qualified based on the criteria initially established.

The state took the position that subsidizing the rubber padding on the playground constitutes the use of government money to promote religion.

Maybe they’re concerned a child will thank Jesus when their head doesn’t break open when they fall?

This case is troubling because Trinity Lutheran was denied an opportunity available to every other individual and organization in the State of Missouri solely because they are a church.

Of course, no one wants state funded religion.

But that does not mean that churches should be deprived of secular opportunities otherwise available to everyone else in the community.

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment was written specifically to prohibit the government from punishing people because of their religion.  One’s faith should make no difference to their legal rights, duties, or opportunities.

Many Americans who feel that way are probably a key reason Donald Trump was elected President.  And now Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court.  Very soon, we’ll see if the people got what they bargained for.

Read More